On Writing: For Novels and for Screen

Guest Post by Sandra Perez Gluschankoff: Is it a movie or a book?

screenwriting tipsBeginning, end, middle. Set up, confrontation, resolution. Act one, act two, act three. Any which way these three examples are presented they define the structure of a story.  But what kind of story do they tell? Take your pick. A juicy gossip shared by friends over some elaborated and overpriced coffee drinks. Michael Angelo’s frescoes on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. A movie. A novel.

I wouldn’t know what to do with a brush, so I will not get into the artistic painting process. I would never admit in public of enjoying every once in a while a good piece of gossip. But, I would definitely get into the two storytelling forms I’m very familiar with: Screenwriting and novel writing.

Even though both writing forms can tell the same story; they are both driven by fear of death or loss, and the main character’s journey to attain redemption or validation of his or her existence, they do it differently.

How many times have we gone to the movies to experience a book we loved on the big screen only to walk away unfulfilled? It has happened to me and the reasons are simple. Screenwriting is subjected to rules that limit the characters’ abilities to cocoon themselves into the many feelings and thoughts that cannot be spoken or showed. Audiences are not mind readers.  A movie plagued with voice over narration becomes tedious, and too many flashbacks intended to show a character’s backstory only succeeds in confusing the moviegoer.  A screenplay must have a beginning, middle and end, filled with subplots, and it must maintain a balance of show and tell, of dialog and narrative. Pages and pages of narrative are translated into minutes and minutes of silent action on the screen. Pages and pages of long uninterrupted speeches turn the characters into chatterboxes.

Another important aspect to take in consideration when writing a screenplay is page count. Every page makes up for a minute of movie time, 90 pages, 90 minutes and so on and so forth. Unlike a book, which we can put down at any moment, go about our days and then pick it up again whenever we have the time, that is not the case with movies. The moviegoer’s time is precious. Screenwriters should take into account the audience’s attention span. They should treat the theater as a classroom and deliver their masterpiece in no more than 120 minutes.  Yes, there are some movies that tie the audience three hours to their seat, but that is a risky gamble done usually with highly successful adaptations of sci-fi novels.

Many of the characteristics attributed to screenwriting apply to the writing of a novel. However, in this form the writer has a different kind of freedom. Novel writing amounts to the author’s use of words aimed to create a visual image in the reader’s head. Characters can be explored deeply; the author can write their inner thoughts, describe their inner turmoil. Unlike screenwriting, the writing of a novel is not a small percentage or blueprint of the storytelling process, it is its all. A novelist owns his or her product and all of its creation without being subjected to changes necessary to appeal this or that audience, attract this or that actor. After the edits are done, a novel is ready for publication. After the edits are done, a screenplay is ready to undergo as many rewrites as necessary to satisfy the many other departments that make up for the production of a movie and the millions invested to make it happen.

Whether it is gossip, stick figures on a cave’s wall, a blog, a novel or a screenplay, we all contribute in our way to the most ancient tradition known to humankind; storytelling.

Keep the ball rolling and write!

About the Author

I was born and raised in Argentina. My mother, born in a refugee camp in Italy, my grandparents Romanians Jews, and World War Two survivors. From my father’s side the flavor of the Middle East. A mixture of the legendary traditions and art of Safed, Israel and Lebanon.

Different languages, colors and food were my everyday. So, was silence and fear. My childhood happened during the years of the dirty war, the military regime. I was extremely fortunate to have the best teachers, who would risk their lives by closing the classrooms doors and hush to us the truth of what was happening out there.

While my academic background is in psychoanalysis (a Freudian girl, gotta love the divan!), anthropology, Judaic studies, and Hebrew teaching, my interest turned to writing. I have written six feature screenplays, one original T.V pilot, and a reality show concept. My thriller “Voices From The Tomato Fields,” placed as a semifinalist in the Write Movies International Screenplay Contest in 2004, and placed in the top one hundred in Project Greenlight the same year.

For three consecutive years, I served as a Judge for the Brass Brad Screenwriting Mentorship Award and in 2012 I was honored to be part of the judging panel for the U.C.S.B. Student Screenwriting Competition.

A couple of years before writing my first novel The Last Fernandez, I kept busy as a freelance writer and script consultant.

Follow me: Twitter | Website | Amazon

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

Guest Post: Marketing Doohickeys

More Marketing Tips for Authors

author marketing tipsA librarian told me that writing the book is half the work; selling it makes up the other 50%. As a writer, how can you stand out in a world of other books? Try these personalized marketing tricks:

QR code.

Traditional marketing plans involve making postcards and bookmarks with your cover image and book information on them. (I’ve also heard of bracelets, necklaces, shirts, and cookies used for swag.) One way to make the bland postcard or bookmark more alluring (and to tie in new technology) is to use a QR code.

QR codes are those black and white fuzzy squares now appearing on posters, newsletters, and even cereal boxes. When somebody scans them with their smartphone, the code takes them to a web URL you set (the publisher’s site, the author website, Amazon.com, or even a secret download—like an extra short story).

There are free QR code generators, like http://www.free-qr-code.net/ or http://goqr.me/. Some printing companies like MOO.com offer the service when creating promotional materials. Sites like https://bitly.com/ can also track who’s been clicking on your code (but you have to sign up for a free account).

Customized goodies.

Giveaways are quite popular. Sometimes the prizes involve something monetary, like a Barnes and Noble gift card. One way to spark more interest, though, is to make a book-themed basket. Is your story set in the classic Hollywood era? Maybe a set of black and white films will entice potential readers.

Character-themed goodies also work. Silk, one of the main characters in my debut novel, has emotional memories tied to cherry blossoms. These flowers adorn the prizes in my gift giveaways.

author marketing tips

Autographed copies.

People enjoy getting free copies of your book. When you add a signature, though, it adds a sense of specialness to the receiver. Make sure to personalize the inscription to best reflect the reader. An inscribed copy is a way for people to show off their uniqueness and ensure that they’ll keep the copy in their library.

Which idea did you like? How have you made marketing more interesting and specific to your book?  

About the Author

Jennifer J. Chow, an Asian-American writer, holds a Bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a Master’s in Social Welfare from UCLA. Her geriatric work experience has informed her stories.  She lives near Los Angeles, California.

Her fiction has appeared in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, IdeaGems Magazine, and Mouse Tales Press.  Her Taiwanese-American novel, The 228 Legacy, made it to the second round of the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest and was published by Martin Sisters Publishing in July 2013.
photo credit: TMAB2003 via photopin cc

Book Review: Amity of the Angelmen

Guest Review by Rachael Clipson

book review amity of the angel menAmity of the Angelmen by T. C. Slonaker is a book that keeps you on your toes.  It is a great book for those who just want a good read or for those struggling with their faith. I often found myself wondering if the story could actually happen or not. What if your best friend was half angel??

Amity, the main character,  has had a great life as the preacher’s daughter until she finds out some interesting news. It turns out she is God’s messenger.  She asks many of the same questions that I would ask if in that position. I found myself taking a walk in her shoes. I often thought, what if God is telling me to do that? She is a strong character, but has times where she is like any other teenager and can’t find hope in her situation. She has a great friend though that helps her find hope for her mission.

Mackenzie is a very young man trying to find his place in God’s plan. He happens to find himself in the middle of Amity’s mess when Mrs. Sheridan drags him to rid Her house of evil. He becomes Amity’s best friend and protector. He seems to be the only person she can turn to. But with Mackenzie becoming a priest he can’t have close secular relationships. Where will this leave him and Amity?

T. C. Slonaker has written a wonderful Christian mystery that leaves you begging for more! It makes you realize that God has a plan for you even if you don’t know what it is yet.
Book Review Amity of the Angelmen

About the Book

Amity David is not human, as the seventeen-year-old pastor’s daughter had thought she was. Her life has now been upturned and possibly set aright with the help of Mackenzie Abel, a young priest as conflicted about his calling as Amity is about hers. Blindly searching for answers together that will serve God’s intent, the two also struggle against feelings they have developed for one another. Can Amity trust the alleged angel who told her she is descended from a demon? Part of her hopes not because, if true, it means she is being called to help free others like her from the ties of her evil heritage through war. What happens when a being created out of evil, is called to fight on the side of good? And what if this evil being thinks she is a good person, only to find she is not even a person at all?

About the Author

Tracy enjoys her life as a wife and mother of three in just outside Reading, PA. She still has a soft spot for kids and an eagerness to use her degrees in Elementary Education by using them as Director of Christian Education at her non-denominational Christian church. She has also learned to love running, and has not given up her childhood fondness of sports (playing softball and watching football). She gives thanks to the Lord for all His good gifts. Visit her website, follow her on Twitter and Facebook, and connect with her on Goodreads. You can find her book for purchase on AmazonBarnes and Noble, or the Martin Sisters Publishing website.

About the Reviewer

Rachael lives in a very small town in East Tennessee, where she attends Roane State Community College, majoring in Elementary Education. She loves to read whenever she gets the chance. You can follow her on Twitter @Rachy355.

On Editing: You May Be Doing It Wrong

Why Your English Degree Might Not Make You an Editor

Guest post by TC Slonaker

on editing

freedigitalphotos.net/scottchan

I am a writer.

Even with my first novel in publication, and a second on its way, I have trouble bringing myself to actually use that title. When I am reading the likes of C.S. Lewis and Harper Lee, I hardly feel worthy to share the same occupation. But I didn’t always boast this humility.

Here’s my background. In school, I was caught in the beginning of that “Let’s boost every kids’ self-esteem” movement. I won awards for my poetry and even found myself holding a pen set designated for Writer of Year, both in 8th and 12 grades. Obviously, I must have known what I was doing. I mean, hey, I placed out of having to take any composition classes in college. Even they thought I knew it all, right?

Ha.

Once I had written my first novel, I began to send it to publishers and agents in hopes of finding someone to take on my project. I expected some rejections, having heard the stories of all the greats. No one is accepted on their first query. After 19 rejections, I thought perhaps all the appropriate niches for this book were full. If I wanted to see this work in print, I might have to do it myself.

When I made the decision to self-publish, I knew my work needed to be looked over.  You know.  For the little things I may have missed like missing commas or forgotten capitals.  Because nothing is more frustrating than reading a book and finding a typo, right?

After all, how bad could it be? Remember all those writing awards I had won? In high school? Of course, high school is not my recent past.  That means it had been 20 years since I was a student of English. But the language hadn’t changed any, so I was sure I was fine.

I had even been a teacher of English – as high as 6th grade, mind you.  And all that stuff was still pretty familiar. I have to correct my own kids’ work regularly too. Many people even hate me for constantly reminding them of which “your” is needed.

So I formed a group of my friends to be “betas” and tasked them with finding my little typos. They hadn’t gone very far when, I am convinced, God sat upon His throne, shaking His head, saying, “Oh no.  She’s really going to do it.  She is going to try to represent me with a book that looks like that.”

Harsh, you say? I wish I could show you the compilation of edits made to the very first chapter of my “masterpiece.” The work I had pored over.  And over. And over again.  I’m telling you, I read that book so much, I was even getting sick of it myself.

I wasn’t going to catch my mistakes, because I didn’t know what I was doing wrong.

So, God set the wheels in motion, stopping me from my adventure into self-publication and finding a publisher willing to work with me. Since I had been nervous diving into publishing my book with no knowledge of the publishing world whatsoever, I jumped at the chance to have a professional do it for me.

After all the contract signing, copyrighting, and other business about which I was clueless, was finished, I leaped into the next phase of editing.

O. M. Gosh. I felt like a first grader, who just learned to read, being taught (patiently) all the rules of composition that I either never knew or was choosing to ignore for the sake of voice. (I learned later that voice didn’t have to break rules and look ugly.  There were better ways to achieve it.)

My editor taught me what felt like years’ worth of proper grammar, syntax, style, and story-telling. I wish I could list it all! Actually, I have been compiling a list of my biggest mistakes.  I use it as a check-off list as I proofread my other novels. It is an on-going list, because sadly, I know there is plenty more to learn.

The result was a book that I was not embarrassed to sell. I probably wouldn’t have been embarrassed to sell it before the editing, but I should have been!

Okay, fellow writers, what are you taking away from this? I’m not putting you down if you have selected the self-publishing route, especially if that was the way you wanted to go in the first place.  However, if you are only self-publishing because your work has been rejected numerous times by traditional publishers and agents, I would suggest looking into finding a professional editor.  A publisher might be too busy to tell you that his pet peeve is when someone starts a sentence off with the word, “But,” but an editor will fix it so you can experience a valued look from the publisher.

I haven’t made it as an author, if “making it” counts as selling more than 13 books. So, my opinion might not matter all that much. But as a reader, I will tell you that I do not want to waste my time on a book that is not well-written.  Please give it your best.

Tracy enjoys her life as a wife and mother of three in just outside Reading, PA. She still has a soft spot for kids and an eagerness to use her degrees in Elementary Education by using them as Director of Christian Education at her non-denominational Christian church. She has also learned to love running, and has not given up her childhood fondness of sports (playing softball and watching football). She gives thanks to the Lord for all His good gifts. Visit her website, follow her on Twitter and Facebook, and connect with her on Goodreads. You can find her book for purchase on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or the Martin Sisters Publishing website.

Book Review: Obsidian by Kayla Curry

Novel Review by Lisa Lester

Book review Obsidian by Kayla CurryKayla Curry’s Obsidian is the first book in her planned Mystic Stones series.  I wasn’t familiar with her work prior to this one, but after reading the summary on goodreads, I was intrigued.  Set in the year 2020, the world has become completely dependent upon technology, to the point that societies can no longer function without it.  Then comes the day that the technology fails.  Cars stop working because they are dependent upon GPS satellites to simply drive down the street; computers won’t work without the internet. And on islands like Hilo, Hawaii where our story takes place, food supplies can quickly become scarce when ships can no longer travel the oceans.  Within the first few chapters we meet our protagonist, Ava, a building manager whose company rents out office space.  We also meet Tom, another main character, who we quickly discover is one of the vampires behind the technological collapse in order to coerce humanity into trading their blood for use of technology.  When Ava spurns Tom’s offer of becoming a vampire like him, she goes on the lamb and we meet a colorful group of characters including surfers, rogue vampires, and an immortal with a secret of his own.  This group decides to band together to try and take down the vampires and save humanity, starting with the group on Hilo.

Overall, I loved the premise of this book.  It was a fresh and original take on the vampire/supernatural mythos.  I really, really, wanted to like this book.  However, the main plot of technological failure quickly takes a side rail to the romance between Ava and Tom, and later Ava and Jesse.  There is a brief Twilight-esque love triangle between Ava and the two men, which further muddied the plot for me.  While the love story interwoven in the main plot isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I felt that she could have done much more with the technological angle.  If the lack of technology is supposed to be such a world-changer, it isn’t really shown as much more than a minor inconvenience in Ava’s world.  Newer cars won’t start, and computers won’t run, but paperwork still exists in the year 2020.  Restaurants are still able to cook and serve food, and there are still plenty of cars and motorcycles and boats that work perfectly well without GPS.  There’s also some aspects thrown in that defy the suspension of disbelief, such as when one of the characters, Hui, asks Ava if she still throws [knives], and she replies with a comment about being rusty, but yes.  Nowhere in her back story does it ever mention that she would have a hobby such as throwing knives, and there would be no reason for a building manager to have a skill like that.  Another such example is (minor spoiler here) Ava’s own progression from mere mortal to powerful immortal.  In the course of a few chapters she experiences a build-up of power that defies logic and sense.  Even characters such as Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake and Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan went through a progressive buildup of power.  Even to say that Ava was born with this much power, there should have been hints of it earlier in her life, and even earlier in the story, that would have made more sense.  The aforementioned examples also had their moments of failure with their powers, which makes them more believable, while Ava’s powers never go awry or fail her at any time.  The other consequence to a power build up so great this soon in the series is that the author leaves Ava no room to grow as a character.

This book had a lot of promise.  Like I said, I really wanted to like this book, but the more I read, the more I felt as if the story pacing and character development was lacking.  The characters were likeable, and I enjoyed the use of Hawaiian slang and pidgin. Unfortunately I would hope that in future books we would see more of the main story and less of the romance, and more character development, but I have to say I was disappointed with this one.

2BrassMonkeys3

About the Book

Ava Tanner finds herself in a world without satellite technology in a time of GPS, Smart phones, and Tablets. When she discovers that a corporation headed by vampires with sinister motives is to blame, her world is turned upside-down. After a narrow escape, she learns a mystical secret about herself that could aide her in her fight against the vampires. Unfortunately, the vampires see her either as an asset or a target.

When the world is on the brink of complete social and technological destruction, one must ask themselves: Would I give up my blood for the modern ideal way of life, or will I risk my life and wage war with the overlords of chaos?

About the Author

Kayla Curry lives in North Platte, Nebraska with her husband and two year old son. She is always getting ideas for stories from random thoughts and places, but a lot of inspiration comes from the wide range of people she sees while working front desk at a local hotel.

In her free time, Kayla likes to do arts and crafts and also dabbles in knife throwing. As of late, her son and her writing take up most of her time, as well as preparing for a new addition to her family. She plans to continue writing even with a new baby in the family. Follow her on Twitter and Goodreads, or visit her website. You can find Obsidian at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and many other online retailers.

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Lisa Lester lives in humongous house with three cats, three dogs, two dudes (one of which she’s married to, the other one is a refugee from New Jersey) and a partridge in a pear tree…okay, just kidding about the pear tree.  And the partridge too. When she’s not working for the Man. she’s reading or killing stuff on World of Warcraft. She also enjoys nerdy things like Star Wars, crocheting, and pretty much any kind of music.  

The Benefits of Small Press Publishing

Weighing in on Alternative Publishing Options

Guest post by David J. Kirk

publishing options for fight for your write

Stuart Miles for freedigitalphotos.net

I would like to thank Jen and Melissa for allowing me to guest post on this great new site.  Being a small press author, I am here today to talk about the benefits of publishing in this venue.

I have to begin by admitting that, yes, I have submitted to the big six (or five, or however many there are now).  I also received five or six very nice rejection notices, mostly on postcards so my mailman could read them.  Like many of us who have been submitting for years, my first goal was to get published, and how wasn’t a major concern.  However, I started to look into independent publishers as I became more realistic.

University and small presses have had their famous authors and best sellers.  The Dummies and Chicken Soup books started out this way.  Plus, the independents may also be willing to take a chance on an offbeat story or an unknown author.  I hear they give smaller advances, if at all, although I don’t know this from experience.  However, keep in mind that advances are not bonuses; they are just what the word implies, advances on royalties.  If you receive a generous advance, and your book starts out slow, it may be quite a while before you receive a royalty check.

Generalities aside, I can only speak of my experience with my publisher.  I signed with Martin Sisters Publishing and my experience couldn’t have been any better.  I entered into an agreement with them on April 1st and my book was released August 11th of the same year.  My first expense was the purchase of my marketing copies.  Editing, proof reading, cover design, and formatting were all completed by the publisher.  I was highly involved in the editing process of the entire book via email.  My book is now available in almost every online selling point imaginable in this and several other countries.  I have also placed it in several retail outlets through buyback agreements.

While my publisher did not take out full-page ads in the New York Times, they did keep me involved in the development of my release press kit.  I was allowed input in personalizing press releases to the targeted markets.  I am also free to purchase copies at the wholesale price and sell them as I see fit at signings and other events.

My overall favorite aspect of small press publishing, however, is the almost family atmosphere of the whole organization.  I’m never more than an email away with any question I have for my publisher.  There is just no substitute for the personal attention I receive.  I also have access to a group of accomplished fellow authors, my host Jen Barry being one, who have literally taught me this business.  Many of us MSP authors stay in touch and help each other out with promotion.

I just can’t say enough good things about this publishing venue.  I hope you give it a try.  I also hope that you keep reading this blog as I’m sure Melissa and Jen have many more great things to come.

David is the author of Particular Stones by Martin Sisters Publishing which can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and many other online outlets.  His author page and blog appear at djkirk.net and please follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.  Watch for his new book Cornerstones.